Cardiac Anomalies and Bradycardia: What You Need to Know to Stay Healthy

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Cardiac anomalies are heart defects or conditions present since birth. These anomalies vary widely in severity and scope. Sometimes cardiac anomalies and bradycardia present together in a patient.

Also called congenital heart defects or congenital heart disease, cardiac anomalies affect about 1 in 100 births, according to the March of Dimes. When the heart forms during early pregnancy, something goes wrong and a defect occurs. The exact causes of the defects aren’t known. Some of these defects are life-threatening and require immediate surgeries while others are minor and have little effect on the child.

Bradycardia is a slow heart rate and occurs when an adult congenital heart defect patient’s heart rate drops below 60 beats per minute and when an infant’s heart rate drops below 100 beats per minute. Congenital heart disease patients often live into adulthood with proper care. Sometimes bradycardia requires treatment while in other patients nothing is required to correct the issue.

Bradycardia Symptoms and Scope

Not all babies that have bradycardia are born with a congenital heart disease, and not all adults with bradycardia have congenital heart anomalies. Sometimes bradycardia is one side effect of the heart defect. When a patient with congenital heart disease has bradycardia, symptoms may or may not be present. Often symptoms don’t present unless the heart rate falls below 50 beats per minute.

Symptoms of bradycardia rage from feeling light headed to cardiac arrest and death. Other symptoms include weakness, mild fatigue, dizziness, chest pain and low blood pressure. Calling a doctor as soon as any of these symptoms occur is recommended. Generally, the doctor will schedule an appointment with you and go over your medical history. Many people with cardiac anomalies are aware of the condition, but some people are not. Sometimes congenital heart conditions aren’t diagnosed until adulthood. Most will have a regular cardiologist, but if not, a primary care physician should make a referral.

After the doctor goes over your medical history, one of several tests might be ordered. Some of the tests to check for bradycardia include an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram and an exercise stress test. Temporary treatment involves giving the patient oxygen to correct the problem. Bradycardia interrupts the heart’s system, similar to an electrical system. Treatment might depend on how severe the bradycardia is. In severe cases, a pacemaker is needed to correct the problem and regulate the electrical system.

Cardiac anomalies and bradycardia are commonly found together. Patients who are born with congenital heart defects sometimes suffer from bradycardia because of the heart defect. These patients should report any bradycardia symptoms–dizziness, fainting or weakness–to a cardiologist because the condition can be life threatening. However, with treatment, many people with bradycardia live normal lives.


American Heart Association: Bradycardia

NYU Cardiac and Vascular Institute: Bradycardia (Bradyarrhythmia)